Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pratchett and Vox Pox (Pops)

Christmas wouldn't be complete without the latest book from Terry Pratchett.

I can only add my best wishes to the many expressed in recent weeks now that it has been anounced the author has Alzheimer's.

Several articles I have written this year have touched about how everyone has a voice in the new media. They have such a strong voice that the non expert man or woman in the street are now more trusted and respected to give an opinion. I have made clear that this imbalance leads us to take advice from people who know little about the sometimes complex situations that occur.

After all if you want your boiler fixed you call a heating engineer. If you want to know about the Northern rock crisis you ask a financial expert.

Rewind a bit, If you want to know about the Northern rock crisis you ask people in a que who are scared and desperate to get there money back (rightly so given the lack of credible support by the government, not exactly helped by media doom mongering).

The best decisions can only be made with the best information, although citizen journalism opens up all the information making it available to every one it becomes harder to find the nuggets of information which are the truth.

In information terms we are potentially turning into lemmings all willing to jump on the latest band wagon. The people who shout the loudest and are given enough air time will be listened to. The new media is all about spin and not substance to the detriment of society as a whole.

Of course this may not be a problem, because experts have an agenda, they mislead the public at least if we all doing it, it is democracy in action.

The problem is citizen journalists also have agendas, unlike experts they have no reputation to loose if they are found to be wrong, they can hide behind different screen names, groups and accounts. If it all goes wrong you will find them blaming someone else, they take no blame or liability they were only expressing what everyone was saying or thinking.

The media in turning us away from the establishment is leading us into a very large, very dark, very scary mine field. You can ask the non expert what happens if you go into a mine field without a map, no need to track down an expert for this one.

Terry Pratchett in his latest book has hit on a very apt description for all these Vox Pops you see in newspapers, news tv and online. (I renamed it Vox Pox because it is more like a disease)

"...Vox Pops - which meant people in the street who didn't know anything told other peole what they knew - and lengthy articles by people who also didn't know anything but could say it very elegantly in 250 words."
Making Money 2007, Terry Pratchett.

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